14/04/2012 07:26 BST | Updated 14/06/2012 06:12 BST

Fuel Strike Threat Averted But Government Continues Making Contingency Plans

The threat of a fuel strike may have been averted, but the government is continuing to make contingency plans, it has emerged.

It comes after a proposed deal was reached on Friday, following weeks of talks between the Unite union and the Acas conciliation service.

However, a government spokesman last night said: "We will continue to work on contingency plans to increase the country's resilience in the event of a strike".

Nick Dennis of Unite, told the BBC the statement was unhelpful at a time where a negotiated settlement is being sought.

He said: "The government is not being helpful in the way they've handled this situation."

On Friday Peter Harwood, Acas chief conciliator said: "Over the past fortnight the six contractors have met with the Unite trade union through the Acas conciliation service. Acas has been shuttling between the parties and the process has been a challenging one but we are pleased to announce that a set of proposals have been reached.

"As you would expect, the details of the proposals are confidential until the parties report back to their respective organisations. After that the details may be disclosed by the parties themselves."

Unite had earlier been given an extension to a deadline for declaring strikes in the fuel tanker drivers dispute so that peace talks could continue.

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Under employment law, the union should have made a decision by late afternoon on whether to call its 2,000 members in the industry out on strike after they voted last month for industrial action.

Mr Harwood added: "The extension to the ballot period was agreed to enable those consultations to take place.

"Acas is pleased at this development and hope that the matter will soon be settled."

Unite officials will meet next week to decide whether to accept the proposals drawn up after this week's talks.

The dispute has been brewing for more than a year but flared up last month when Unite announced that workers in five firms had voted to strike.

There was a spate of panic-buying of fuel by motorists last month after the Government advised them to top up their tanks because of the threat of a strike.

Chaotic scenes and long queues were seen at garages across the country following the Government's advice, which was heavily criticised.

Labour led calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude for advising motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.

An Energy and Climate Change Department spokesman said: "The Government welcome the news that Unite plan to put a deal to their members.

"We hope that this will lead to the threat of strike action being lifted.

"The Government continues to believe that any strike action is wrong and unnecessary."

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said the prospect of a fuel strike was causing "dreadful uncertainty" for business: "It is very disappointing that the union has rejected this deal, and both parties must get back around the table to settle this dispute as soon as possible," he said.

"A strike would cost a huge amount of money, and cause disruption and misery for millions of people who have nothing to do with this argument."